The Daily News wrote a scathing editorial yesterday about a southwest Brooklyn lawyer who is running for civil court today. Morton Avigdor was described as “morally vacant,” and backed by the “incorrigible Brooklyn Democratic machine.”
Late last month, the Daily reported that Avigdor failed to give back $500,000 from a deceased man’s estate. Avigdor was the co-executor of Elias Gelbwachs’ estate and will. Gelbwachs’ son, Avi Jay, was the beneficiary. After Gelbwachs died in 2004, Avigdor was in charge of his assets, totaling $1.125 million.
Avigdor admitted in a Rabbinical court hearing that he used a portion of the estate money to buy properties at 7104 Fort Hamilton Parkway, and 884 71 St, instead of distributing the funds as instructed. The Fort Hamilton home was used to facilitate his $35,000 investment in the company, Doctors on Call.
In 2014, Avigdor sued the medical company, saying he wasn’t given profits meant for him as a partner. In a May deposition, he even denied running for judge, according to the Daily.
He paid for Gelbwachs funeral and other expenses but there was still $900,000 unaccounted for, according to court documents.
The Rabbinical court authorized the other co-executor of Gelbwachs’ estate, Moshe Twersky, to seek civil action in removing Avigdor from the estate. Later, a committee found Avigdor innocent of wrongdoing after review. After a complaint was made in 2011, the Brooklyn District Attorney’s office filed no charges, according to the Daily.
Avigdor’s role in the estate was curtailed in June of 2011 after repeated delays in turning over the estate’s accounting.
Avigdor was ordered to pay $750,000 by July of 2014. He defaulted, even though he sold the Fort Hamilton property for $1.1 million, according to the Daily.
As reported by the Daily:
“He still owes $572,000,” Avi Jay, 56, told The News. “I’ve known him since we were little. We are still friends, we still speak, but it’s been difficult. … He says he will pay back every penny.’
Nonetheless, in court documents obtained by The News, Avigdor did not disclose the large liability or his alleged role with the medical company to the state Ethics Commission for the Unified Court System.
“The facts are troubling,” said Ellen C. Yaroshefsky, the head of Hofstra University’s Ethics Institute. “Moreover, the New York State judicial candidate form requires disclosure of this information and failure to comply can result in significant sanctions including referral to disciplinary committee and potential criminal liability, which should preclude him from becoming a judge.”
According to the Daily’s editorial, Avigdor did not mention the debt or the business investment in his financial disclosure form, which every candidate must fill out.
The other two candidates in the race are Rachel Freier, a Family Court attorney, and Jill Epstein, who was criticized by a panel of judges for violating money-handling rules, the Daily notes.
The editorial closes with a strong endorsement of Freier.
“Voters of Borough Park, Kensington, Sunset Park, Bensonhurst, Dyker Heights and Bay Ridge must go with Freier,” writes the Daily.